“As we developed Smoked Burgers & BBQ, we decided to focus on developing and expanding that brand,” he says. “We’ll develop and grow brands we feel fit our portfolio.”
But the focus, at least for now, will be Smoked Burgers & BBQ, starting with a second location opening in Las Vegas later this year or early 2020.
Klaasen, the former director of operations for hospitality and entertainment group SBE, shares his vision for Hospitality Boulevard’s future.
What led to the creation of Hospitality Boulevard—both as a turnaround expert and as a concept builder?
Hospitality Boulevard started in July 2018 when my cofounder, Joey Pintozzi, and I partnered with a [restaurant] client we had met in the past. We have always dreamed of having our own company and applying what we learned from the great companies and people we have worked with. When the opportunity was presented to us, it was a no-brainer. We wanted to see if we had what it takes to take off the training wheels and go out and survive on our own.
Ideally, we would prefer to conceptualize and develop our own brands moving forward. Joey and I feel it makes more sense and is more natural to execute our own vision versus acquiring another company’s vision. All that being said, we will always take the time to explore any and all opportunities. The lessons we soaked up over the years have made for an easier-than-expected transition into entrepreneurship.
What project are you most proud of?
In the short time we have been out on our own, Smoked Burgers & BBQ is by far the venue we are most proud of. Joey and I developed it from nothing with our third partner, chef David Mangual. Smoked Burgers & BBQ opened in early 2019, and it’s our baby.
I am also very proud of a job Joey and I worked on in February and March. We were tasked to create a brand, menu, and venue design and get everything approved and opened in 30 days. It was a very proud moment for Hospitality Boulevard to complete a task no one thought was possible.
What are you working on right now?
Hospitality Boulevard has received a lot of attention from investors and financial groups to expand the Smoked Burgers & BBQ brand. We are working on a second location in the off-Strip Las Vegas market. We are also developing a new brand that we’ll open with investors in California some time in 2020, which will elevate our company to the next level. Lastly, I am opening a steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona, slated for the fourth quarter of 2019.
We would like to keep the pace fast and furious while the iron is hot. If we have the time and the resources and believe in the project, we will always look to keep progress moving forward.
How do you identify the underperforming restaurants, and how do you transform them?
One thing we look at right away is what guests are saying about the venue online. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Business will tell you how guests view their experience in any given venue. Looking for key information such as how well is the food received, what guests think about the service, ambiance, and music. We also like to see the business in action and evaluate the level of service provided from the moment guests walk into the venue to the moment they walk out. Other things Joey and I look for are venue organization, cleanliness, how the venue is being marketed, etc.
Have you flipped any hotel restaurants?
We flipped one venue for a very large Las Vegas–based hotel group but have not transformed anything inside a hotel specifically. I would love to open restaurants in some of the hotels in Las Vegas. After spending so many years working in hotels for other companies, it would be a dream come true to own our own restaurant in a Las Vegas hotel.